Story Notes: This story I posted on Watson's Woes and it received just four reviews which I found a paltry amount so I decided to post it here because I think it deserves more attention.
When I first delved into the Holmes fanfiction community I found some wonderful work by KCS, including a massively wonderful take on Holmes/Watson the early years. Here recently I've watched a new series by Steve Moffat from Doctor Who fame called Sherlock. It stars Martin Freeman as an interesting John Watson, sans moustache but I forgave him rather quickly once I saw his portrayal.
That origin story and some of my own thoughts about how Watson and Holmes first handled that first meeting, or rather how MY Watson handled that first meeting and this is what I came up with told from three POV's.
I lifted much of the text from STUDY but I tweaked the dialogue to fit my Watson and my Holmes and the results were really fun to read. When Watson wrote the scene he portrayed himself as a giddy cheerleader, but my truth was something else entirely, and I was surprised at how more meaningful and profound the encounter became just with a change in Watson's attitude.
This was a man who had blood soaked dreams and was attempting to put his life back together, some school boy playing with a chemistry set was not going to impress him, however there was a subtle shift in the scene, see if you can spot it.
Nuff said...I hope you enjoy this!
At First Glance
They all stood a safe distance away from the crime scene as one lone figure did his work.
The night was muggy and thick with the moisture rolling off the Thames in a prototypical London fog. Lestrade leaned against the alley mouth watching his friend as he went about his work with low murmurs to the body itself.
Some found it strange, this humanizing a mortal shell, but for those who had seen the act of kindness before, and had run down the clues that came from the consultation, they knew the truth.
"You think that tha' Doc will figure out how she died?" asked the young PC to Lestrade's left, he immediately received the glowers from the older officers with them, but Lestrade had to chuckle.
"Trust me, Barrymore; if it can be determined, that man is the one to figure it out."
The young man with the angular face and the budding moustache peered into the alleyway, since he was the one to find the body during the course of his rounds he seemed to feel a certain investment. Lestrade knew the feeling.
"I've known the man for nearly twenty-five years now, even before he worked for the Yard, and I tell you, I've never known his like with a corpse on the ground," he assured with a smile.
"How did you two meet?" the PC inquired suddenly throwing Lestrade for a bit.
He glanced around to see the other men were showing signs of curiosity as well.
His mind cast back across the years to an earlier day. According to the accounts in the Strand he had not met Watson until that first case, but he had encountered Watson months before Rache was written on the wall, a night much like this one.
He was mad enough to give nails a chew by the time he cleared the doorway.
He hastily fished in his coat for his cigarette case, and nearly dumped the lot as he fumbled one out placing it to his lips and patting his pockets for matches. "The arrogance, calling me incompetent, why I ever invited that bastard, I'll never know..."
"Maybe because he is the finest pure investigative mind in all of England," remarked a voice from his near left causing him to start, "otherwise, who could tolerate him?"
He turned to see the red ember of a cigarette tip lit in the shadows, the man stepped out into the light with a limp.
Lestrade had a nodding acquaintance with this man, but they had never conversed before. His face was unlined under the deep tropical tan that had yet to fade entirely; the moustache and hair trimmed immaculately showing a military bearing that still marked his mannerisms, but the eyes, now regarding him with wry amusement, were far too old for the face. He might have been nearly a decade younger than Lestrade, but in some ways he made the older man feel naive.
Lestrade still had the cigarette in his lips, a fact brought to his attention when the younger man snapped a match to light one handed, and held it to Lestrade's cigarette. The Chief Inspector puffed out his first drag with a grateful nod and the two men smoked in silence.
Lestrade found the other man's presence entirely agreeable. He was a man who seemed to be at peace with himself and the world around him, a calming influence and a balm to his nerves. He was beginning to see why Holmes was starting to drag this man around with him more and more often even though he had shown no interest in relationship before.
"If I am permitted to ask, what did my flatmate say that caused this level of agitation?"
Lestrade sighed. "I called him to this scene as soon as I realized that I had a closed room murder with two bodies, one of whom was not known to the master of the house. However, your companion insists that proper protocol was not followed and valuable evidence was lost. I know my job and I made sure of the procedure myself!"
The other man chuckled. "Holmes must not know what happened yet, he always blames others because he can't believe that the truth is not always apparent at the first, even to him."
Lestrade had to smile at that.
The other man held out a hand. "My name is John Watson, I am a doctor by trade, at least I hope to be again someday, I know your last name is Lestrade from my partner's many laments, but I never caught a first."
Lestrade accepted the hand. "Giles, Giles Lestrade, Doctor."
He smiled. "That is the first time that someone has called me Doctor outside of Holmes for some time, Thank you."
As Watson smoked the last of his cigarette, dropped it and stubbed it with his toe, Lestrade noticed that he was dressed rather nicely for an evening out.
"I hope I did not drag Holmes away from other plans," Lestrade stated as the other man plucked his cane from where he rested it against the wall.
"It is, unfortunately, irrelevant at this juncture, we've missed the curtain, don't worry, there will be other nights, please inform Holmes that I found my own way home."
He tipped his hat and began to limp past when he paused. "Incidentally, you might want to mention to Holmes that there is dirt underneath the windowsill itself, it looks in the shape of fingers, I have seen men who could climb straight walls with what looked like no footholds in Madripoor, and they would grab a sill to pull themselves up similarly, it is pretty distinctive of someone who is double jointed or flexible to an extreme extent, I was going to find a way to point it out without being obvious, I truly do not wish to involve myself in his affairs, but the thought occurs if you were to introduce this evidence, it will cause him to mope for days, and maybe I can get a decent night's sleep sooner than later."
He gave the inspector a sly grin. Lestrade had to laugh. "I'll take care of it doctor, have a pleasant evening."
Watson nodded. "The evening is pretty well shot now, but seeing Holmes crestfallen will be a small compensation, and a good night to you as well, Chief Inspector."
Lestrade watched Watson limp away into the night, feeling a sudden fondness for the man. It appeared as if Holmes had found more than a mere extra rent check, but someone who was his match if he would allow for it.
He looked up to the bottom side of the sill as Watson had mentioned and saw the grimy fingerprints, they were not obvious unless you were looking for them, Holmes would be appalled that he failed to notice them earlier.
An evil grin touched his lips as he went inside to tell Holmes the good news.
"I have come to a conclusion, Giles, if you're not too busy," Watson called to Lestrade, and from the tone Lestrade could tell the man had that lopsided half grin on his face.
"Coming Doctor," Lestrade responded giving the PC's a motion telling them to disperse.
As he made his way over to his friend, he realized that yes he had definitely liked John Watson from the first and that his consideration had only grown with time.
Anyone who could show up Sherlock Holmes was a friend in his book. However, Lestrade had discovered just as Holmes had weeks before his first meeting with the Doctor, John Watson had limits yet to be determined. Lestrade was not sure the man possessed any.
At least he had not seen any sign.
It was the way he took Holmes's observations, Holmes reflected later, that was what caused him to like John Watson, when he had felt fondness for so few in his lifetime to that point. He felt the truth was more compelling than what was written in the Strand accounts, and far more interesting, however the reality was a private thing between them. When Watson met Holmes for the first time; he was not impressed in the slightest, which was what endeared him to the detective for life.
"Sherlock! Where are you?"
Holmes sighed, he thought about hiding behind the chemicals, but then Stamford would keep on calling like a lowing calf looking for a teat.
"I'm over here, so stop that incessant noise!"
Holmes listened to the familiar rolling gait particular to that most annoying of acquaintances; however, he picked up a footfall accompanying. It sounded like a man who was limping, but the pace was evenly spaced in a manner of a man used to marching in step with others. The length of the stride told Holmes that the man was medium height, and the surety of the foot falls caused Holmes to think that this man was formerly athletic.
"Holmes, I know you were looking for someone to split a rent, well it happens that I ran across a man in the very same predicament, I think you two should commiserate.
Holmes mentally prepared himself for annoyance. He expected that the man in question would be a stuff shirt military type thoroughly unsuited for co-habitation with his brilliant mind and erratic lifestyle.
His eyes passed the familiar and locked onto the stranger beside, and immediately he began to pick out details, and found some minutia that intrigued him.
However at that moment, there was a reaction back at the chemicals which confirmed his suspicions and all of his observations of the man were lost in the rush of excitement.
"I found it!" he crowed.
In his excitement he pulled the test tube out of the slot and waved at the two men with the joy of a shaver on Christmas morning. "I have found a re-agent which is precipitated by haemoglobin, and by nothing else."
Stamford's forehead wrinkled showing that he had left his depth almost immediately, but his companion's hazel eyes twinkled with interest.
"Doctor Watson, this is Mr. Sherlock Holmes," Stamford continued, showing his narrow minded adherence to the task at hand.
"Never mind," Holmes stated waving the introduction off, chuckling to himself "The question now is about haemoglobin. No doubt you see the significance of this discovery of mine?"
"It is interesting, chemically, no doubt," Watson answered, "but practically?"
"Why, man, it is the most practical medico-legal discovery for years. Don't you see that it gives us an infallible test for blood stains? Come over here now!" He seized Watson by the coat-sleeve in his eagerness, and drew him over to the table at which he had been working. "Let us have some fresh blood," he said, digging a long bodkin into his finger, and drawing off the resulting drop of blood in a chemical pipette. "Now, I add this small quantity of blood to a litre of water. You perceive that the resulting mixture has the appearance of pure water. The proportion of blood cannot be more than one in a million. I have no doubt, however, that we shall be able to obtain the characteristic reaction." As he spoke, he threw into the vessel a few white crystals, and then added some drops of a transparent fluid. In an instant the contents assumed a dull mahogany colour, and a brownish dust was precipitated to the bottom of the glass jar. "Do you see?" Holmes replied with all the flourish of a magician.
Watson shrugged. "That is all well and good in a test tube but you will not be under laboratory conditions where the test might be utilized will you? The surface upon which the possible blood has fallen and the chemicals contained will certainly have a bearing…"
Holmes felt his eyes narrow. "Your observation was indeed apt with the old guaiacum test, which was very clumsy and uncertain. So is the microscopic examination for blood corpuscles. The latter is valueless if the stains are a few hours old. Now, this appears to act as well whether the blood is old or new. Had this test been invented, there are hundreds of men now walking the earth who would long ago have paid the penalty of their crimes."
Watson nodded, but still looked unimpressed, "Perhaps, perhaps not."
"Criminal cases are continually hinging upon that one point," Holmes continued unabated, "A man is suspected of crime months perhaps after it has been committed. His linen or clothes are examined and brownish stains discovered upon them. Are they blood stains, or mud stains, or rust stains, or fruit stains, or what are they? That is a question which has puzzled many an expert, and why? Because there was no reliable test. Now we have the Sherlock Holmes's test, and there will no longer be any difficulty."
"Huzzah, you are to be congratulated," Watson replied with a raised eyebrow wringing all the sincerity out of the statement.
"There was the case of Von Bischoff at Frankfort last year. He would certainly have been hung had this test been in existence. Then there was Mason of Bradford, and the notorious Muller, and Lefevre of Montpellier, and Samson of New Orleans. I could name a score of cases in which it would have been decisive," Holmes continued trying to make his point.
"You seem to be a walking calendar of crime," said Stamford with a laugh. "You might start a paper on those lines. Call it the "Police News of the Past."
"Very interesting reading it might be made, too," Holmes remarked, sticking a small piece of plaster over the prick on his finger. "I have to be careful," he continued, turning to Watson with a smile, "for I dabble with poisons a good deal."
Watson crossed his arms and leaned insouciantly against the cabinet, his cane hooked over on elbow, clearly bored with the affair. "I am sure you are going to be a legend in your own annuals to be sure, however, I came to inquire about lodgings?"
Holmes blinked at the observation. He decided to put the impertinent man in his place.
"I perceive you have been in Afghanistan," he blurted out trying to reassert his standing.
Watson smiled. "Oh how did you figure that out, a man with a tropical tan in overcast London, with obvious war injuries and a military bearing, and it happens to be just months past one of the worst defeats in British Army history in where of all places...oh yes, Afghanistan...you astonish me with your acumen, sir," he needled, "if we can forego the parlour tricks..."
"We came here on business," said Stamford, sitting down on a high three-legged stool, and pushing another one in Watson's direction with his foot. Watson settled into it with his eyes never leaving Holmes, his scrutiny showing no signs of abatement.
Sherlock Holmes felt delighted at the idea of sharing his rooms with the as of yet reticent soldier. Better him than some idiot without an opinion, otherwise he might as well be bunking at the Yard. "I have my eye on a suite in Baker Street," he said, "which would suit us down to the ground. You don't mind the smell of strong tobacco, I hope?"
"I always smoke "ship's" myself," Watson answered his face stoic.
"That's good enough. I generally have chemicals about, and occasionally do experiments. Would that annoy you?"
"By no means," Watson allowed.
"Let me see - what are my other shortcomings? I get in the dumps at times, and don't open my mouth for days on end. You must not think I am sulky when I do that. Just let me alone, and I'll soon be right. What have you to confess now? It's just as well for two fellows to know the worst of one another before they begin to live together," Holmes concluded with a laugh.
Watson was quiet a moment, obviously not one for cross-examination. "I keep a bull pup," He said after some time had passed, "and I object to rows because my nerves are shaken, and I get up at all sorts of ungodly hours, and I am extremely lazy. I have another set of vices when I'm well, but those are the principal ones at present."
"Do you include violin playing in your category of rows?" Holmes asked, anxiously.
"It depends on the player," Watson answered with the first hint of a companionable smile. "A well-played violin is a treat for the gods - a badly played one - "
"Oh, that's all right," Holmes cried, with a merry laugh, "I think we may consider the thing as settled - that is if the rooms are agreeable to you,"
Watson's considering stare gave Holmes no indication of where this would lead, and suddenly Holmes realized that he wanted the man to say yes.
"When shall we see them?" Watson inquired in an even tone.
"Call for me here at noon to-morrow, and we'll go together and settle everything," Holmes answered with a beaming smile offering a hand.
"All right - noon exactly, if you are not here, we can consider the matter settled then," stated Watson, shaking his hand with a surprisingly firm grip, "Incidentally, if you do not turn down the flame on that burner I believe I smell calamity approaching."
Holmes spun back to his experiment with a cry and managed to get the Bunsen turned down frowning at the lost work.
They left while he was sorting things out. He glanced up after an interim and saw they had gone. A strange sensation came over him, as if he was missing something.
Or was it someone?
He was used to people crumbling under his trained eye, or showing signs of intimidation, the man that has just left his presence actually caused Holmes some consternation.
"It would appear I have found a flatmate," he remarked with a smile.
The years since had born out that first assumption in ways that Holmes could have never imagined. However, Watson never was impressed with Holmes, not his vast intellect, not his massive recall, not his encyclopedic knowledge of criminal matters no matter what he wrote in the Strand accounts, but that had never made their friendship less profound. As a matter of fact, it only caused the relationship to be something even more transcendent.
It is only in the eyes of someone who merely tolerates our less salient character flaws that we can find affection in its purest form because caring for someone despite, instead of because, means that the person can only be there for affection alone, anyone with ulterior motives would have gone mad from the strain.
That solitary reason is what made John Watson his dearest and only friend, Holmes could always see partiality in the man's eyes, even through his exasperation.
And Holmes had caused that look of exasperation more times than could be counted...by even his mind!
She stirred a pot on the stove, adding the fresh cut vegetables from the garden out back to the pot, Doctor Watson was coming home and she wanted his first meal back to be one of his favourites.
He had taken his time returning to 221b after Holmes returned from the dead. She knew he would acquiesce soon enough, with poor Mary being gone they were the only family he had left, however, she knew that he would make Holmes work for it. If those readers of the Strand only knew the real man who shared the rooms above, they would not be so focused on his taller more eccentric companion.
As it happened she nearly threw Holmes out on his ear that first day, if it had not been for the other man at her door their stay under her roof would have been short indeed.
The door bell kept ringing.
She was wiping her hands in her apron and moving as fast as she could but even still there were three more jingles before she made it to the Apartment B street door.
"Yes?" she said in a tone harsher than she had intended.
The taller one had his hand on the chain to give it another tug.
"Madam, I believe I inquired about the rooms above two days previous, and the price you quoted me was a matter of contention between us, since our last conversation I have acquired a man willing to cover half the rent you so ably defended."
She felt her face go cold. "As I told you then, Mister Holmes, I never wanted to see you darken my door again, there are others out there willing to pay full amount and I will await their attentions rather than spend one more minute in your company, good day sir!"
She was about the slam the door in the arrogant berk's face when the man behind him nudged Holmes to the side. "Excuse me?"
He held out his hand, removing his hat in a courtly gesture. "My name is Doctor John Watson, I am the other perspective tenant, while I understand your reluctance to have further dealings with my companion here, I would like to ask if I may see the rooms in question?"
What was it about him that softened her heart? She would ask herself that question many times over the years to come.
Was it his condition? He was so wan and tired looking, even with the outdoorsman tan and sun frosted hair; he was a man in need of kindness and some mothering.
Could it have been his polite tone and gentleman like manner? Here was a man with breeding and refinement, and educated as a Doctor, which could come in handy in the long winter months indeed.
She also had to add with a small feeling of scandal that it could have been that he was one of the most handsome men that she had ever laid eyes on, and even though his frame was spare now, the set of the shoulders and the muscles that still remained marked him as a fine figure of a man. She was an older widow...but she was not dead yet!
While Holmes grew on her, and became likened to a lost son, the reason those two men were let through the door that first day, despite her misgivings, was because of Doctor Watson, and he alone. He was the reason she stepped to the side and invited them inside, if such a man was willing to keep company with that gangly arrogant sod, than he might have some redeeming features after all.
She relied on Watson's judgement rather than her own and had never regretted that decision.
"Mrs. Hudson, can you summon a fire wagon, and send a telegram to Kensington informing Watson that he might have to put off the move a few more days," Holmes bellowed from the stairwell over her head.
She smelled something burning, she sighed and moved the pot to a cold burner and set about to find her shawl for the trip out.
Truth be known, she never regretted letting Watson through the door...but as for Holmes...
One last note: For those who object to Mrs. Hudson finding Watson attractive, I believe his "touch" with the opposite sex has been well established? She was a living breathing woman after all LOL!
I did not say she was interested in acting on that knowledge, but acknowledging his attractiveness in her private musings is something I think must have happened at least once or twice LOL!
If you choose to flame try not to burn the furniture...if Holmes left any intact.